ESPN’s College GameDay has apparently become ESPN’s SEC GameDay.
When the GameDay crew announced last Sunday that it would be appearing at the Florida-Tennessee game instead of the Stanford-USC showdown for week three, I was baffled. To be blunt, there’s no way to quantify the stupidity of that decision.
There are many reasons why picking Florida-Tennessee over Stanford-USC was a God-awful choice. To begin with, this marks the third week in a row where GameDay will watch at least one SEC team play. In fact, after Saturday, GameDay will only have seen one team—Michigan—that’s not in the SEC so far this season. Really, GameDay? Don’t you think college football fans across the nation are starting to get sick of the whole SEC theme?
Some might point to the notion that the SEC is the most dominant conference in college football, and as such, it would make sense for SEC games to draw the most attention. That’s a fair point. But a huge part of why the SEC is so fearsome is because of Alabama and LSU. While there’s no denying that the Tide and Tigers have shared a stranglehold on college football in recent years, I would argue that there is a significant drop-off after those two teams. This was shown last Saturday, when then-No. 8 Arkansas, labeled by many as the third best team in the SEC, fell to unranked Louisiana-Monroe in a 34-31 upset.
Keep in mind that Florida and Tennessee are in the SEC East, separate from powerhouses Alabama and LSU in a stronger SEC West Division. To be frank, both the Gators and the Volunteers will have a tough time winning the SEC East, let alone the entire conference. Fellow division contenders Georgia and South Carolina have been impressive so far and are currently ranked in the top ten, well ahead of No. 18 Florida and No. 23 Tennessee. And even if we were to give the Gators and Vols the benefit of the doubt in terms of winning the SEC East, neither team has a legitimate shot at capturing the conference championship unless Alabama and LSU decide to forfeit all their games for the rest of the season.
GameDay just saw Florida last week when the Gators played against Texas A&M. Really, GameDay? You’d rather see Florida—a team that hasn’t been exciting to watch since Tim Tebow left—twice before you see USC even once? Sure, the Gators did make a nice comeback against the Aggies in the second half, but it wasn’t anything so dazzling as to warrant an encore performance—not to mention that the Aggies weren’t even ranked. So can GameDay please move on?
To be fair, USC would have been the main motivator for the GameDay crew to fly out to the West Coast. For the entire preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, college football analysts across the country have shown nothing but awe for Matt Barkley & Co. The off-the-charts attention is perfectly understandable considering that Barkley is the best quarterback in the country as well as the Heisman favorite while Marqise Lee and Roberts Woods are starting to emerge as the greatest wide receiver duo ever.
All of the analysts in the GameDay crew have voiced an overflowing amount of praise for USC—none more so than Kirk Herbstreit in his Herbie Awards. It makes no sense at all for them to gush about USC but then not even attend one of the biggest games of the season that actually features the Trojans. Although GameDay will still have a chance to see the Trojans when they square off against Oregon, that game won’t be until early November. You’d think that the crew would surely want to have an early season look at the No. 2 team in the country and the Heisman favorite, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
While No. 21 Stanford doesn’t have an Andrew Luck or a Coby Fleener to show for anymore, the team boasts plenty of weapons on both sides of the ball to make the Cardinal-Trojans matchup interesting. In fact, Stanford’s front seven will be the best front seven that the Trojans will face all year, unless they reach the national championship and play a team like Alabama. And with a developing quarterback in Josh Nunes, a star halfback in Stepfan Taylor and an explosive punt returner in Drew Terrell, among other offensive standouts, there’s nothing boring about this year’s Stanford team.
All of this makes GameDay’s decision to skip over Stanford-USC dumbfounding. Why would you want to see two SEC teams—teams that might not win even their division—play each other when you can watch the best team in the Pac-12 try to keep its national title hopes intact against a great defense? At this point, even the Michigan State-Notre Dame game would have been a more reasonable choice than Florida-Tennessee.
Of course, there’s the argument that many Stanford students won’t be on campus. But so what? That doesn’t take anything out of the game itself. If there are some extra Trojan fans on the Farm, then so be it. It’s part of college football. There were plenty of Duck fans at the Stanford-Oregon showdown last season, but it didn’t detract from the GameDay experience at all.
It’s a shame, really, because Stanford-USC is the second biggest game that college football has offered so far this season—second only to the Alabama-Michigan clash that occurred in the opening weekend. Yet that seems to be irrelevant to College GameDay.
Tomorrow night, the Cardinal and the Trojans will prove that the GameDay made a poor selection with Tennessee-Florida. And trust me, it certainly won’t be the last time when we ask, “Why, College GameDay, why?”
George Chen hopes to see the Cardinal beat the Trojans for the fourth year in a row. Send him your predictions at firstname.lastname@example.org.